18950228 See an image of this letter, https://doi.org/10.17613/ns95-gr73


Ceará,         28th  Feby.  1895


My dear Mother,

There has been no mail since I wrote you on the 16th. It was then too early to send you a birthday letter, and now I am afraid it is a couple of days too late. It is not easy to hit it off right. The steamers from here are so irregular. However there is one leaving today – the make shift for my birthday – and by it I send you my very best wishes for many happy returns of yours, and may the coincidence be of happy augury.[1]

I am not writing any business letters for this mail. The boat is a slow one but I shall wait for the next via Pernambuco. Besides I have unfortunately very little to write about. Business here is very up-hill work. The place is new to me and I know nobody, and a couple of introductions I brought were not of much value. Then carnival came in and everyone went masquerading. I have not seen it celebrated to the same extent anywhere else. Two afternoons a procession paraded the town. There were some fifty young men on horseback in fancy costume, – plumed hats, capes, knickerbockers, buckled shoes, colours white and red; – it was rather picturesque. Then followed a number of carnival cars – mostly humorous critiques of notable incidents and people in the Ceará life of the past year. One of the best was a reproduction of a steam dredger that is making-believe to dredge the harbour. In it were three fellows masked in burlesque imitation of the English engineers in charge, – a capital take-off; fair fierce moustaches, florid faces, sun-helmets, whiskey-flasks, and pipes. Outside the car was an inscription to the effect that so long as the Government paid the guaranteed interest this cow would give milk.

A comic butcher with chopper and joints of beef, in another cart, had reference to some attempt of the municipality to fix the price of meat.

The politicians were not spared, nor the official newspaper. There were several triumphal cars with prettily-dressed children, and two structures ridiculing the efforts of a rival carnival club. Then some thirty boys in fancy dress riding on donkeys. Two or three bands accompanied the procession, and altogether it was well worth seeing, although I have a very small opinion of the people who indulge in the tom-foolery that prevails at this time. Pretty fancy dresses I like to see and witty burlesques are amusing, but mere buffoonery is imbecile.

I had cards for four mask-balls at the two leading clubs, and I went to two of them. At each there was a crowd of over four hundred people, mostly in fancy dress, – really a very pretty sight. Some of the girls had invented most tasteful and striking costumes. I cannot give anything like an adequate description but I noticed a “Carrier Pigeon” – wings from the shoulders and on the head and a letter fastened to a necklace, – “Railway” – head-dress imitating a locomotive funnel, semaphores on the shoulders and rails round the skirt, a lady “Jockey”; a “Duchess of Devonshire” costume with a very pretty hat and a very pretty face under it; a military costume – gold epaulettes etc. very “fetching”; – a “Magicienne” with a towering conical head-dress; shepherdesses and dominos galore. Flowers were very popular too. One of the prettiest was a little girl with a cap of an inverted pale blue convolvulus, and dress to match. The men mostly went in for comic masks, and of course there was the usual badinage and mystification. Dancing was kept up vigorously from nine o’clock till after three.

I have made the acquaintance of an English family, – very nice people, – Mrs Saunders, three daughters and a small boy. The husband was drowned some few year ago on the coast. He was employed under the Brazilian Government, fortunately – for the widow draws a pension and otherwise their means are not large.

When I write again I shall probably be about to start for Pernambuco. The English cable clerk tells me there were conversational enquiries along the wire about me from friends there. I often send and receive messages in this way along the coast, as I know almost all the staff of the Cable Coy.

Well, I shall drink to your good health on St. Patrick’s day and may be I shall get a sprig of shamrock to drown, for little Mrs Wilson (from Cork) says she has discovered it or something very like it growing in Pernambuco.

Best love








  1. Birthdays: JMcC 29th February 1864 (31st birthday). Jane 17th March 1836 (61st birthday).


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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